Time for a really long post, I think. Hopefully it can be of some benefit.
Avatar 3D- 8/10
Everything I expected out of a James Cameron movie and more (including the simplistic plot and stereotypical characters). Despite the thin story and lack of character development, the incredible visuals and special effects make this a good one. Probably one of the better movies of 2009.
Terminator 2- 9/10
Another James Cameron movie....saw this again a while ago...it's probably one of the greatest action movies ever made. For what it was, I'm not sure what else James Cameron could have done to improve this one.
The Hurt Locker- 8/10
I saw this after all of the critical acclaim. It's definitely an original movie...the kind of war story that really has never been told. Bigelow (the director) puts you right in the middle of the action in a way that's never been done before. Jeremy Renner also does a great job as the leader of a bomb disposal unit, and he could very well get an Oscar nomination for it. That said, I really didn't understand all of the praise. If this wins Best Picture (and it might), it will have been a down year for movies.
The Hangover- 8/10
I'm disappointed I didn't see this sooner, as I would have watched it several times by now. It's hilarious...every scene made me laugh and Galifianakis' character has the best lines ever...
A pretty good horror comedy that I didn't get around to seeing until a few weeks ago. It's not as funny or good as Shaun of the Dead, but it's still a good addition to the genre. Speaking of Shaun of the Dead, I can't wait until Simon Pegg makes the last of his comedy trilogy.
Twilight (the 1st one, I think?)- 4/10
I watched about a hour of this one night on TV. It sucks. The actors/actresses suck. And why are vampires in this world able to go out in the sunlight? WTF?
Blade Runner- 10/10
I saw this again a few weeks ago. It definitely gets better with additional viewings as you catch things that you hadn't seen before. This is Ridley Scott's best movie (though Gladiator was awesome) due to the powerful themes that pervade it. It really makes you question what it means to be human. And of course there's always the issue of whether Deckard is actually a replicant.
Fantastic Mr. Fox- 9/10
I love Wes Anderson comedies and Fantastic Mr. Fox is no different. This stop-motion animated movie is original and full of laughs. George Clooney is also great as the voice of the title character. If I was to recommend any movie from 2009 that I've seen so far to somebody else, this would be it.
A Serious Man- 8/10
The Coen brothers' latest movie. It's not as good as some of their others, but it's quite funny, and the ending really made me think about it for quite a while (its main themes of uncertainty and the unknowable nature of life were especially thought-provoking).
I actually hadn't seen this before, which is surprising considering I'm a big fan of Clint Eastwood's early work as an actor. It deserves all of its acclaim. The characters were fascinating (and the actors did a great job playing them...especially Eastwood and Hackman). It was very different kind of western than had ever been done before, and that made the movie especially compelling. The ending was also awesome.
As I believe I mentioned here 3-4 months ago, I had wanted to watch Hayao Miyazaki's movies for some time, and I finally got around to doing that some time in September. Of course, after watching a few of those, I decided to watch his entire collection, and that eventually led to watching the entire Studio Ghibli (basically the Pixar of Japan) collection. I'm nearly finished doing that. I'll rank Miyazaki's in the order that I liked the best with a brief description:
1. Princess Mononoke- 9/10
An environmental epic set in Japan about 500 years ago, it's primarily about man's effect on nature, but it's much more than that. It might just be the best animated movie I've ever seen, and definitely the most violent.
2. Porco Rosso- 9/10
This is about an Italian WWI fighter pilot who is living as a bounty hunter on the Adriatic Sea around 1930 after having abandoned the growing fascist movement in his home country. He's been cursed and turned into a "pig" (though what that means is very open to interpretation).
3. The Castle of Cagliostro- 9/10
Miyazaki's first movie is about Lupin III, a master thief, and his attempt to steal from the corrupt Count Cagliostro. It's basically an adventure/action movie (think James Bond/Indiana Jones), only its animated. In fact, I've read that it was an influence on George Lucas making Indiana Jones.
4. Nausicaa- 9/10
A post-apocalyptic epic that again has a significant environmental message (it's really a theme that pervades most of Miyazaki's work). Only small human kingdoms have survived the traumatic event that destroyed the world 1,000 years earlier (seemingly it was as a result of war and the growth of technology).
5. Spirited Away- 8/10
The most famous of Miyazaki's movies in the US...this is a coming-of-age fantasy tale with some great visuals and social overtones about the environment, over-consumption and greed.
6. Howl's Moving Castle- 8/10
A fantasy film about an immature wizard (Christian Bale is the voice of the main character in the English dub) that takes place during a period of war somewhere in Europe...another movie with great visuals.
7. My Neighbor Totoro- 8/10
A fantasy film about two girls and their imagination. It has some powerful themes, but it's very much a movie that was made for children (not that some adults wouldn't like it).
8. Kiki's Delivery Service- 8/10
A coming-of-age tale about a young witch who has to make her own way in a town in Europe. Fairly enjoyable for what it was...it's main message is about the difficulties of growing up and moving into a new place.
9. Ponyo- 7/10
Miyazaki's most recent movie was definitely made for children, but it was incredibly imaginative and full of great visuals.
10. Castle in the Sky- 7/10
Very much a fantasy epic (it's about the search for a former island civilization in the sky that collapsed due to greed), but it was probably my least favourite of Miyazaki's. It just doesn't have as much depth as the others and certainly not the same emotional effect.
Isao Takahata's Grave of the Fireflies- 9/10
An incredibly emotional movie (seriously...it's pretty depressing) about the effects of war on two Japanese children during World War II. Like Roger Ebert, I have no problem saying that it's one of the best anti-war movies ever made.
Isao Takahata's Only Yesterday- 8/10
A very well-done realistic drama about the meaning of growing up and staying true to yourself. This is a very Japanese movie...in fact, it's never been dubbed over in English like all of these others have (though that probably has more to do with Disney deeming some of its content inappropriate for American audiences).
Isao Takahata's Pom Poko- 7/10
Another very Japanese movie about "tanuki" (basically Japanese raccoons) trying to fight back and save their living environment from the construction of the suburbs of Tokyo in the 1960s/1970s.